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US protests over police brutality intensify

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Demonstrations against racism and police brutality have spread to even more cities across the United States as people in many parts of the country defied curfews to protest against the killing of George Floyd.

The days-long protests sweeping the nation have reawakened outrage over years of deaths of Black people at the hands of police, renewing long-standing accusations of institutionalised and systemic racism.

After a night of unrest on Friday, racially diverse and largely peaceful protests took over streets in major cities throughout the country during Saturday’s daytime hours.

Participants held signs saying “Black Lives Matter” and chanted “I can’t breathe” – some of Floyd’s last words before he died on Monday shortly after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, pinned him down with a knee to the neck for several minutes.

In New York, a city that is yet to emerge from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, a series of protests took place across its five boroughs.

“I’m here for George Floyd; I’m here for all those who have lost their lives [to] police brutality,” Paige Porter, a protester in New York, told Al Jazeera.

“America is sick and we have to root out racism,” Caroline Nixon, a white demonstrator, said. “I think that white people need to stand up and do something instead of sitting on their couch.”

By late on Saturday, many of the nationwide demonstrations turned violent amid tense standoffs between police and protesters. The unrest saw some police cars set ablaze and stores ransacked as officers used tear gas and rubber bullets during confrontations.

Authorities in a number of cities imposed overnight curfews in a bid to control the escalating situation, affecting millions of people including in Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.

In Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters were still out as an 8pm curfew began on Saturday. The demonstrators have promised to continue taking to the streets at least until all four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been charged. So far, only one officer – Derek Chauvin – has been arrested in connection to Floyd’s death.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz meanwhile ordered a full mobilisation of National Guard soldiers, the first time in the state’s history.

Minneapolis’s streets steadily grew calmer as the night went on, and Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said the tough response would remain as long as it takes to “quell this situation”.

Governors in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas also activated the National Guard.

Overall, few corners of the country were untouched in the unrest – from protesters setting fires inside Reno’s city hall, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota, to shattered windows at police headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.

In central Indianapolis, police were investigating “multiple shootings”, including one that left a person dead, amid the protests. Police gave few details but said no officers were involved.

In Philadelphia, at least 13 officers were injured when peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. Other fires were set throughout downtown.

In Salt Lake City, protesters defying a curfew flipped a police car and lit it on fire, and another vehicle was later set ablaze. Police said six people were arrested and a police officer was injured after being struck in the head with a baseball bat.

In Los Angeles, protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter”, some within inches of the face shields of officers. Police used batons to move the crowd back and fired rubber bullets. A graffiti-covered police car burned in the street.

In New York, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets.

In Washington, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds taunted law enforcement officers. Dressed in camouflage and holding shields, the troops stood in a tight line a few yards from the crowd, preventing them from pushing forward.

President Donald Trump, who spent much of Saturday in Florida for the SpaceX rocket launch, landed on the lawn in the presidential helicopter at dusk and went inside without speaking to journalists.

The Republican president has taken a highly partisan tone, calling for a tougher crackdown on protesters and accusing them of being “radical-left criminals”.

Trump said the federal government was coordinating with local authorities across the nation, as the response became increasingly militarised.

“My administration will stop mob violence and will stop it cold,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera


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